Cervical cancer is one of the most common cancers seen in Indian women; the other is breast cancer. It is a type of cancer that occurs in the cells of the cervix—the lower part of the uterus that connects to the vagina—mostly due to the Human Papillomavirus (HPV) and India accounts for the highest number of cervical cancer cases as out of 40% of the total deaths from cervical cancer globally, 23% occurred in India and it has been estimated that about 8 out of 10 women in India will contract HPV (human papillomavirus).
The most prevalent viral infection of the reproductive system is the human papillomavirus and according to WHO estimates, HPV is the main cause for cervical cancer incidences (more than 90%). Cervical cancer is more common in low and middle-income countries where a lower socioeconomic status results in compromised general hygiene and illness infection.
In an interview with HT Lifestyle, Dr Ravindra Pirojiya, MD (Gynec) at Mandavray Hospital, revealed, “Cervical cancer is caused by a variety of risk factors including HIV infection, smoking, a family history of the disease and poor genital cleanliness. It can be cured if detected early and treated promptly. This year’s Cervical Cancer Awareness Month theme is “ending cervical cancer within a few generations,” which can be accomplished with competent screening techniques or by usage of digital health platforms like EMR. A robust Electronic Medical Record (EMR) can help doctors understand a patient’s medical and family history and can assist in detecting cervical cancer at an early stage.”
Dr Sunita Kapoor, Director and Consultant Pathologist at CIty Xray and Scan Clinic Pvt Ltd, highlighted, “In rural India, the acceptance of cervical cancer screening has not been encouraging due to a lack of awareness and fear of undergoing a procedure. Also, there is hesitation, ignorance, and fear around HPV vaccines, besides lack of access and the cost factor. Delays in cervical cancer screening are largely linked to increased mortality due to the disease among Indian women. Access to quality diagnosis, structured screening, and follow-up care is the key to combating cervical cancer, which is the fourth leading cause of cancer mortality in females globally.”
Talking about the warning signs to watch out for, Dr Suversha Khanna, Director of Dharamshila Rahat Supportive and Palliative Care Centre, said, “Cervical cancer can be detected in the precancerous stage by going for a Pap test, also called a Pap smear. The condition is easy to detect. Foul smell from vaginal discharge and incontinence (inability to control urine) leads to social isolation, broken marriages, depression and guilt. As the condition advances some of the signs include bleeding from vagina, foul-smelling white discharge through the vagina, passing of urine/stool through the vagina, blood in urine, loss of bladder control, change in bladder bowel habit, severe bone pain and pain in the back or side due to hydronephrosis/kidney failure, swelling in one of the legs, constipation and nausea/ vomiting.”
She shared, “Less than 1% of India’s population has access to palliative care. Patients have common myths about cervical cancer that they might need a Pap smear every year and that HPV can only affect those who have multiple partners. Also, none of these are true and such patients can get infected.palliative care is most effective in complicated conditions. When it comes to cancer, palliative radiotherapy reduces the size of tumors, vaginal discharge, vaginal bleeding, size of fistulas, nutritional problems, bedsores and contractual. It improves quality of life, interpersonal relations and survival rates. The services here makes people understand that with willpower and medical support, they can regain their normal lifestyle, and live symptom-free.”